The Mets weren't supposed to take two of three from the Nationals after announcing Bartolo Colon as their Opening Day starter, but everyone did their job and New York got the 2015 season off to a happy start. Also defying initial expectations are the Braves, who are projected as a doormat by many but just won their first three games. As a result, the Mets have a chance to take the division lead with some solid play this weekend! Let's check in on the buzz surrounding Atlanta.
The Braves are playing for 2017?
You might know the story by now. After an incredibly disappointing 2014 season than ended with the Braves tied for second place in the National League East with the Mets, old general manager Frank Wren was fired. His replacement and architect of the 1990s Indians juggernaut, John Hart, traded away the core of Atlanta's powerful yet strikeout-prone lineup. Gone are Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis. In there place? Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes, and catching prospect Christian Bethancourt.
The downgrades put the Braves on a supposed contention clock scheduled for 2017, when the franchise is set to open its second new ballpark since Centennial Olympic Stadium turned into Turner Field in 1997. That must be nice since most fan bases have to wait for their parks to turn into decrepit old dumps before a new one is built.
But they just crushed the Marlins
Any thoughts the Braves had of contending in 2015 were said to be put to rest when the front office dumped Melvin Upton Jr. and Craig Kimbrel on the Padres the night before Opening Day. The players weren't listening, though, and they swept aside popular postseason pick Miami during the first three games of the season. Behind some stellar young pitching and a "small ball" approach on offense, Atlanta spanked the Marlins by the total score of 16-3.
Don't be fooled by that offensive outburst, though. This is still a team that bats Eric Young Jr. out of the leadoff spot and doesn't have much pop surrounding Freedie Freeman. Atlanta will therefore need some great performances from its young pitching staff to become a surprise contender. The way Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Shelby Miller (acquired in the Heyward trade) threw the ball this week has to be encouraging for the Braves and their fans. Unfortunately, the back of Atlanta's rotation doesn't feature the youth nor the talent of the front.
New York's rotation depth won't be an advantage this time
The number of usable arms the Mets have in stock was a big topic of conversation during the offseason. Even if, say, Zack Wheeler was to get hurt, there was still Dillon Gee to provide 200 solid innings. The team wouldn't even have to dip into the minor leagues for Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz if it didn't want to. People weren't saying the same thing about the Braves, who imported a pair of low-cost veterans to help round out their starting five. Hey, at least they're not stuck with Aaron Harang or a suspended Ervin Santana!
Eric Stults is one of the additions, and the 26 home runs he allowed while pitching for the Padres is rather alarming. On the other hand, the 35-year-old lefty hasn't always been homer-prone and was rather useful as recently as 2012. The Braves also traded for Arizona disaster Trevor Cahill late in spring training, but the Mets won't have the pleasure of seeing him thanks to an off day for Atlanta on Thursday. Instead, Stults will pitch Friday, followed by Teheran and Wood.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Braves Probable Starter|
|April 10, 2015||7:35 PM||SNY||Jon Niese||Eric Stults|
|April 11, 2015||7:10 PM||PIX 11||Dillon Gee||Julio Teheran|
|April 12, 2015||1:35 PM||SNY||Bartolo Colon||Alex Wood|
So while the Mets' depth will be an advantage over the Braves in the long run, this weekend we'll see Atlanta's top two starters against the bottom of the New York rotation. The good news is that Colon is coming off a dandy Opening Day start and the offense has been adequate thanks in part to the Mets having a patient hitter instead of Young Jr. at the top of their order.
Prediction: Mets take two of three for the second series in a row.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $125,000 one-day fantasy baseball league today. It's $2 to join and first place wins $10,000. Enter now!